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Research Projects

 

CIRCUMSTANTIAL LIBERALS:

Ethnic Minorities and Political Competition

Ethnic minorities make contemporary Europe increasingly diverse. The prevailing wisdom in research on ethnic politics is that ethnicity is a trouble-maker disrupting programmatic politics – it tends to prioritize group identity over ideology, polity or policy, principle over compromise. In short, ethnicity is expected to be a source of particularistic tension. This book takes a theoretical step back. Approaching ethnic politics as a component of normal politics, it investigates the ideological potential of ethnicity, and examines the conditions that determine the formation of diverse preferences and behavior among ethnic groups and their representatives. The book seeks to answer central questions: What are the political preferences of ethnic minority groups and their representatives? Under what circumstances do ethnic minority groups prefer to cooperate with the majority, and under what circumstances is this preference undermined?

The book proceeds from the expectation that ethnic minorities seek group preservation. It hypothesizes that the search for group preservation may induce ethnic minorities to champion rights and liberties, translating into broader ideological preferences and political behavior. Simultaneously, conditional factors cross-pressure the search for rights and liberties, potentially leading ethnic groups and members towards exclusionary extremism instead. The identification of these conditions is of central theoretical importance, as well as of practical use. The book combines the study of ethnic politics with research on electoral behavior and party competition, while studying both minorities in eastern Europe in comparison with dominant majorities. The book collects novel data sources, which it analyses using mixed quantitative and qualitative methods. Its empirical chapters are divided into two parts, one focusing on large-N quantitative comparative analyses, and one carrying out three in-depth case studies.

This project develops my earlier work on eastern European party competition:

Communism, Federalism and Ethnic Minorities. 2014. World Politics.

 

 


Papers in Progress


Dealignment Meets Cleavage Theory

(with David Attewell, Liesbet Hooghe and Gary Marks)

The rise of a new divide on immigration and Europe raises fundamental questions about the character of party competition and the causal bases of voting. In this paper we suggest that those who support political parties established on the new divide—green and radical-Tan parties—have more structured partisan preferences than supporters of mainstream political parties. While the divide between mainstream political parties has softened with the decline of the class cleavage, that between green and radical-Tan parties is sharp, ideologically rooted, and socially structured. We consequently argue that a new political cleavage dividing those who support and those who oppose transnationalism has arisen.  Among the implications of this neo-cleavage theory are: that the dynamism in party systems arises from exogenous social change; that change comes chiefly in the form of new political parties; that the decline of traditional cleavages does not invalidate cleavage theory; and that de-alignment is valid only for the period beginning with the decline of traditional cleavages in the 1970s to the rise of a transnational cleavage in the early 2000s.

 

 

Fuzzy or Veering? Party Positioning, Voter Congruence, and Electoral Support for Radical Right Parties in Western Europe

(with Jonathan Polk)

Do radical right parties present blurry economic stances, or have they clarified their positions while moving towards the economic left? This paper questions the strategic behavior of radical right parties in western Europe. We show that although expert placements of this party family on the economic dimension have become decidedly more centrist over time, the uncertainty surrounding these placements continues to be higher for the radical right than any other party family in Europe. We then move on to examine to what extent voter-party congruence on redistribution, immigration, and other issues of social lifestyle predict an individual's propensity to vote for the radical right compared to other parties. Although redistribution is the component of economic policy where the radical right has most substantially moved to the centre, our findings indicate that it remains party-voter congruence on immigration that drives support for radical right parties, while congruence levels for redistribution has insignificant effect. The paper concludes that while radical right parties seem to have included some clearly left-leaning economic proposals, which shifted the general expert views of these parties to the economic center, their overall economic profiles remain as blurry as ever.

 

 

Issue Dimensions in Public Opinion: A Research Note

(with Gary Marks) 

The dimensional construction of political space is fundamental to the science of politics. Yet how many dimensions best describe public opinion is contested. This article suggests that issue selection is decisive for dimensional estimation. Because the major surveys of public opinion in contemporary democracies select different issues at contrasting levels of abstraction they produce widely divergent estimates of dimensionality. Consequently, this paper argues that the analyst must select the issues which produce dimensions, and that this choice—and the resulting dimensions—are useful or not in relation to the researcher’s purpose. The implications of this for dimensional simplification are decisive, for the structure one detects in public opinion depends not only on the substantive topics at hand, but also on their generality.